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Schools cannot fall victim to armed conflict: Chinese envoy

A Chinese envoy on Thursday called for international efforts to protect schools from attacks and to unlock children’s potential for the future.

Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, expressed concern over the alarming number of cases where students and education personnel were killed and injured in attacks on schools in the situations of armed conflict. He further emphasized the necessity of education, not just for children themselves, but also for breaking the recurring cycle of violence.

The red line of international humanitarian law prohibiting attacks on schools cannot be crossed. The civilian nature of schools must be fully respected. Any attacks on schools, students, and education personnel, as well as the military use of schools, should be condemned in the strongest terms and put to an end immediately, he told a Security Council open debate on attacks against schools.

Education must remain a priority with more input from the governments. It is imperative to improve school infrastructure and enhance its endurance. Legal and administrative means should be used to prevent schools from being targeted by armed forces, said Zhang.

Immediate measures should be taken to reconstruct school facilities to restore a secure environment for children’s return to school. Digital technology is a useful means to facilitate more learning opportunities and minimize the negative impact of school closure, he said.

The disruptive effects of COVID-19 on children in conflict should continue to be addressed, and measures need to be taken to mitigate the impact of unilateral sanctions on children, he said.

The fundamental approach to protecting children from the harm of armed conflict is to stop and resolve armed conflicts. China urges all parties to conflict to heed the UN secretary-general’s appeal for a global cease-fire as soon as possible, and create a peaceful and stable environment for the growth of the younger generation, said Zhang.

China takes education as a top priority and attaches great importance to providing educational assistance to other developing countries. Over the past five years, China has helped build 123 schools and vocational training centers in developing countries. China stands ready to work with the international community to make every effort to ensure that every child has access to education and is given a brighter future, he said.

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